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Analytics 50: How big data innovators reap results

Five winners of the 2016 CIO.com and Drexel University Analytics 50 awards share details of their projects, lessons learned and advice.

By Thor Olavsrud as written on cio.com

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Data and analytics are reshaping organizations and business processes, giving organizations the capability to interrogate internal and external data to better understand their customers and drive transformative efficiencies.
Worldwide revenues for big data and business analytics clocked in at nearly $122 billion in 2015 and will grow to $187 billion in 2019, according to a five-year forecast from research firm IDC.
“Organizations able to take advantage of the new generation of business analytics solutions can leverage digital transformation to adapt to disruptive changes and create competitive differentiation in their markets,” said IDC analyst Dan Vesset in a statement issued in conjunction with the release of IDC’s Worldwide Semiannual Big Data and Analytics Spending Guide earlier this year. “These organizations don’t just automate existing processes — they treat data as they would any valued asset by using a focused approach to extracting and developing the value of information.”
Additionally, a recent Forrester Research study, commissioned by the global data and analytics team at KPMG, found that 50 percent of businesses now use data and analytics tools to analyze their existing customers, while 48 percent use them to find new customers and 47 percent use them to develop new products and services.
The picture isn’t entirely rosy, however. That same Forrester study found that many organizations are struggling to adjust their cultures to a world in which data and analytics play a central role, and many business executives mistrust the insights generated by data and analytics.
Other organizations, however, have taken naturally to data and analytics and are using new tools to better understand customers, develop new products and optimize business processes.
To honor those organizations, CIO.com and Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business recently announced the first Analytics 50 awards. The winners represent a broad spectrum of industries, from pharmaceuticals and healthcare to sports and media.

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Why Microsoft for your business intelligence and analytics platforms?

Industry analysts have taken note of our efforts and we are excited to share Gartner has positioned Microsoft as a Leader, for the ninth consecutive year, in the Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence and Analytics Platforms.* For the first time, Microsoft is placed furthest in vision within the Leaders quadrant.

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In a market that is rapidly evolving with new innovation being introduced constantly, leaders in the BI market must demonstrate that they are focused not only on current execution but have a robust roadmap that will solidify its position as a future market leader, protecting the investment of today’s buyers. For this reason, we are proud to be ranked as a Leader in Gartner’s evaluation of the BI and analytics market.
Learn more about Gartner’s assessment of Microsoft Power BI and how the company’s offerings stack up against the rest.

*Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner's research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

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4 Ways Real Companies Sell Smarter with Sales Analytics

By Stephanie Dart, Director of Product Marketing with Microsoft Dynamics as written on community.dynamics.com
All sales managers want better numbers from their teams, but many are ignoring the obvious solution. A paltry 15 percent of organizations use analytics to drive objectives. Investing in analytics isn’t just a nice idea if you have the time and money to make it work. A sales team backed by superior data analysis is an unbeatable force. Sales analytics is a time-tested way to get more from the employees and customers you already have and uncover opportunities you may have missed.
Analytics helps sales teams:
• Identify overlooked opportunities
• Find ways to turn existing customers into repeat customers
• Track individual customer trends
• Develop new offerings to satisfy customer need
• And more

Identify overlooked opportunities

Your reps can’t spend all day trolling the Internet for hot tips. That’s where intelligent business software comes in. Kennametal, a leading material science and manufacturing company, uses Microsoft Dynamics CRM to track customers in the news. Whenever client-specific content appears in sources such as The Wall Street Journal or NPR, the CRM software aggregates the headlines and delivers them to sales and marketing teams. That way, the sales team can act right away when opportunities arise. And up-to-the-minute knowledge of their customers’ competitive landscape helps sales reps generate new leads and engage in productive conversations with current clients.

Find ways to turn existing customers into repeat customers

Marketing and sales go hand in hand when it comes to customer retention and have for a long time. Analytics can turn traditional methods into sure-fire outreach. Mike McMinn, Group IT Director for the English pub chain Marston’s, links his company’s enthusiasm about data analytics to the trackability of ROI. “In the UK, companies have a tendency to just give out offers. We want to provide a better experience by knowing customers better—and knowing which of our efforts are paying off. If we can understand our customers better, [using] campaigns that encourage them to buy just one more pint we can increase our profit by several millions of pounds per year.”
Analytics can also reveal how and when your customers need you the most, so you’re able to prepare for a rainy day. When bridge repairs shut down a transit route, Transport for London prepared by studying commuter behavior. The data told a very clear story, so the transportation authority developed strategies—a temporary interchange, increased bus service in the area, personalized commuter notifications—that would keep riders using public transit despite the closure.

Track individual customer trends

On a sales team, you’re going to get good data only if your whole team is invested in tracking it all the time. Reporting software that’s easy to use makes sales teams more agile and increases the quality of the output.
Kennametal finds that visual reporting (like what Microsoft Dynamics CRM offers) helps surface spikes and trends, and this reporting provides insight into profitability and allows for detailed drilling down to the customer-detail level. Better still, reporting can be automated to provide regular updates on how the company is performing against projections. And anyone can access these tools across the organization at any time. No special analytics background required.

Develop new offerings to satisfy customer need

At accounting firm Grant Thornton, analytics is also indispensable in the discovery and development of new sales offerings. Data uncovers demands and desires that customers can’t even clearly articulate. Insights gathered according to line of service, type of service, revenue, and other factors can reveal an untapped opportunity—so the accounting firm can capitalize on it and satisfy a customer need.
We’ve highlighted four advantages here, but there are countless ways analytics can bolster your sales organization. The insights that data analysis can provide a sales team make very smart people even smarter. Since deploying Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Grant Thornton has experienced a 450 percent jump in the number of opportunities it is tracking, a 36 percent increase in average win value, and a 700 percent rise in the number of contacts in its system. Numbers don’t lie. Let them help your team reach the next level.

For information on deploying Microsoft Dynamics CRM in your organization, please call us at 800-257-0691 or fill out the contact form below and an expert will contact you shortly.


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Wednesdays With Will - Voice Of The Customer

Wednesdays With Will: Voice Of The Customer

By William Marchesano, Technology Advisor & Evangelist

Welcome back!  In our last installment we discussed how you can better visualize your business with the use of dashboards to represent data.  This week’s topic is going to touch on the same topic but from the other end…gathering the data.  There are many ways to gather data but it’s important that the information collected is leading to what you’d like to know.  One of the most tried and true ways to accomplish this is through surveys.  Today we are going to discuss why the voice of the customer is a key component for meaningful business analytics and decision making.

The primary reason most businesses use surveys is to develop a go to market strategy for acquiring new business or to learn more about their existing clients.  When crafting your go to market strategy it’s important to understand the market you will be servicing.  You will need a clear grasp of your value proposition including how to position your product or service and the price it can be sold.  This is all part of the research stage and surveys can be leveraged for acquiring this information.  It can be very costly for an organization to launch a new product or expand their business without doing the proper research and having a proper understanding of their potential market.

When used for an existing customer, the goal may be to get a heartbeat on the business relationship between the client and your organization.  This is important for understanding what your business does great and where there may be opportunity for improvement.  It can be crucial for identifying gaps in current service.  It also leads to an increase in customer satisfaction and retention.  This is the first step in transforming your client from a customer to an advocate of your business.

Surveys can be used to increase sales with both new clients and existing customers.  Since a survey gives your customers a voice, you are given a defined understanding of their need and possibly others in the same industry.  This information can then be used in a targeted market campaign to let others with the same challenge know that your organization has a solution.  We live in the age of the internet where most people will do their own research prior to engaging with a salesperson.  Demonstrating an understanding of a challenge and a possible solution helps build trust in the early stages of the business relationship.

The focus of my previous articles has been about how leveraging a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool can assist with simplifying Sales, Marketing, and Services processes.  The latest edition of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, 2016 and the Online version, has included a survey maker as a new preview feature.  At the time, it can be tested and used in a non-production environment.  The full release should be available in the next couple of months.  If your organization is already using Dynamics CRM and contemplating the use of surveys to improve the customer experience?  Now is a good opportunity to try it out and see how easy it is to create a custom survey with your company’s branding.  To improve user accessibility, it’s been optimized so a survey can be taken on a phone, tablet, or computer.  Your Services team will gain more customer insight because they will be able to view customer feedback history as they resolve a service case.  As mentioned earlier, the survey information can be translated into dashboards for better visualization.  Surveys are just another way of augmenting the capabilities of your Sales, Marketing, and Services teams.

As always, I encourage you to reach out to me to discuss these topics in deeper detail. I hope you enjoyed and found this week’s article informative. If you’re interested in some how-to related CRM material, check out blogs by my colleague Ben Ward here. Till next time…

About the author:

Will has over 16 years of experience in business development, team management, and project management. Will has worked at Managed Solution for over four years and is currently advising businesses on best CRM practices and implementations. Will’s focus is on process improvement and analytics specializing in Customer Relationship Management (CRM). Will is a Microsoft Certified Professional, with certifications in Presales Technical Specialist – Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013, Sales Specialist- Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013, Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015 Application, Sales Specialist- Office 365, Sales Specialist- SMB Infrastructure and Sales Specialist- Datacenter.

Other articles by Will Marchesano:

For information on deploying Microsoft Dynamics CRM in your organization, please call us at 800-257-0691.

Business Analytics

Wednesdays With Will: Analyzing Business Analytics

By William Marchesano, Technology Advisor & Evangelist
As a Business Owner, Director, or Manager, you know that having insight into your business allows you to make the right decisions for it. Not many people realize that the use of analytics has been a part of business for over 100 years. Henry Ford is probably one of the best known of the early adopters. Even though the concept of business analytics has been around in one form or another over the past century there have been some challenges with its use. The most common stumbling block has been gathering and maintaining the integrity of data. By definition, analytics is the information that you are able to pull from data. If you are trying to build a house (analytics) you must make sure the building blocks (data) are not of poor quality or you will not achieve the desired result. Typically the other challenges are pulling meaningful information from the analytics as well as sharing that inform between separate departments. This week we’ll discuss how to overcome some of these obstacles in your business.
Over the last couple of months, we discussed how you can effectively enhance the capabilities of your Sales, Marketing, and Services teams by leveraging a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. There are many CRM systems out there but my posts were mainly focused on Microsoft Dynamics CRM. I have used a few other CRM systems over the years such as ACT!, SalesLogix, and of course SalesForce. In the past few years, my preference has leaned towards Dynamics CRM because of its improved ease of use, functionality, and cost. Its tight integration with Office 365 and other Microsoft products doesn’t hurt either. For the sake of this article and to tie everything back to my previous articles Dynamics CRM will be our point of reference once again.
Of the myriad types of widely used systems in businesses today, a CRM is probably the most common technology used to gather customer information for analytics. Yes, an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system can fall under this category as well but that is a different story for a different day. A CRM system such as Dynamics CRM gives you a place to input pertinent information about your customers and prospective clients. This information is then easily searchable and accessible by your Marketing, Sales, and Services teams. Each team will have a slightly different use of the information. Let’s touch on some basic scenarios for each.
From a marketing perspective, analytics provide insight to the effectiveness of different types of communications. There is huge value in understanding how campaigns perform so that budget and time can be best spent. Dynamics CRM powered by Power BI also provides you a visualization of how campaigns are reacting as well as sentiment from a geographical standpoint. Knowing and understanding where potential or existing clients are can help you when crafting your messaging. Being aware of when a prospect has reached a certain level of engagement is key as well. There is a certain level of timing involved when Marketing hands a lead over to Sales for contact. Too early can scare the prospect away and too late may mean the lead is cold again and has to be sent through the nurture process once more.
Once the Sales Team starts their engagement with the client it’s important to understand the journey the lead went through to reach them. The reason this is essential is because it allows you to have greater insight to their need and urgency. This in turn leads to a higher success rate of providing a solution and gaining a new client. The analytics produced by Marketing can provide the Sales Team this information. Throughout the sales process the Sales Team can leverage the analytics in Dynamics CRM to track touch point to conversation rates, pipeline and opportunity stages, and wins/loses over designated periods of time. It basically helps you become a smarter salesperson. Even better, management now has a better understanding of what is working and what is not so they can provide assistance in making you more successful.
The final example I would like to discuss is for the Services Team. With all the time, effort, and money required to gain a new client your number one priority should be to retain them. This is where a high level of customer service becomes crucial. By leveraging analytics through Dynamics CRM, you are able to recognize trends from similar support case instances. This allows you the opportunity to devise a resolution that will prevent similar cases from occurring. The goal is to increase customer satisfaction so they not only remain your client but become your advocate.
Trends are showing there will be a sharp increase in business intelligence usage over the next few years and a CRM system such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM is going to be a big part of that. As always, I encourage you to reach out to me to discuss these topics in deeper detail. I hope you enjoyed and found this week’s article informative. If you’re interested in some how-to related CRM material, check out blogs by my colleague Ben Ward here. Till next time…

About the author:

Will has over 16 years of experience in business development, team management, and project management. Will has worked at Managed Solution for over four years and is currently advising businesses on best CRM practices and implementations. Will’s focus is on process improvement and analytics specializing in Customer Relationship Management (CRM). Will is a Microsoft Certified Professional, with certifications in Presales Technical Specialist – Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013, Sales Specialist- Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013, Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015 Application, Sales Specialist- Office 365, Sales Specialist- SMB Infrastructure and Sales Specialist- Datacenter.
Other articles by Will Marchesano:
For information on deploying Microsoft Dynamics CRM in your organization, please call us at 800-257-0691.

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Cortana Analytics Gallery - a scalable community site built on Azure DocumentDB

By Andrew Hoh Program Manager, Azure DocumentDB as written on azure.microsoft.com . Co-authored with Elena Apreutesei, Principal Software Engineer, Azure Machine Learning.
The Cortana Analytics Gallery is a community driven website used to discover, share, and learn about solutions built from the Cortana Analytics Suite. The Gallery hosts a wide range of solutions; everything from a Retail Forecasting experiment to the ever popular Face APIs used in the How old do I look? app. Machine Learning enthusiasts can share their own experiments using the Azure Machine Learning Studio, a private space focused on Machine Learning experimentation and model creation.
The Cortana Analytics Gallery follows a micro service architecture with single purpose components working together to deliver reliable and durable functionality. This post focuses on the Gallery Catalog API, which is used as the data master within the Gallery user experience.

Gallery Catalog API

Every Gallery entity has a JSON metadata document stored in Azure DocumentDB and all CRUD (create, read, update, and delete) operations are against DocumentDB. As a micro service, the Gallery Catalog API provides REST APIs and supports OData; both of which were built through the ASP.NET library WebApi. Generally, the Catalog API pushes the query filters provided through ODATA directly down to the DocumentDB LINQ provider as an ExpressionTree, where it gets executed at the database.
The Gallery Catalog service exposes GET / POST / PATCH / DELETE operations on standard WebAPI routes, such as the generic route /entities/{entityId} and the specialized routes /experiments/{entityId}, /collections/{entityId}, /tutorials/{entityId}, etc.
The JSON objects in the REST API payload are simply the serialized form of the Catalog entity data contracts, derived from a common class EntityBase which provides the flexibility to store other entities.

Source: https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/blog/cortana-analytics-gallery-a-scalable-community-site-built-on-azure-documentdb/

6.10.15 Microsoft for Work

The data scientist is in high demand right now. Every business wants one, but no one can find any, so Microsoft for Work created this visual guide to help you spot data scientists out in the world—or at the desk next to you.

Source: http://blogs.microsoft.com/work/2015/05/29/the-data-scientist-helpful-to-all-hired-by-the-wise/

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